Lakeview Elementary Students Testify Before Senate Education Finance Committee
Early Wednesday morning in St. Paul, a group of state lawmakers on the Senate Education Finance Committee gathered for one of the many hearings that will take place throughout this legislative session.
“We have so many [students] that have signed up and are eager to share their ideas and their voice,” said Sen. Mary Kunesh, DFL-New Brighton, who chairs the Education Finance Committee.
Students were asked by lawmakers to provide feedback to the committee about what the last couple of years have been like, and about two dozen shared their thoughts.
“One suggestion I would like to share with legislative leaders is more pay for teachers, because that can cover the lack of [substitute teachers] because more people would like to sub more,” said Dahlia Kissinger, a 4th-grader at Robbinsdale’s Lakeview Elementary School.
Kissinger and several other students from Kathy Seipp’s 4th-grade class at Lakeview had the opportunity to provide testimony for the committee.
“Some difficult things that happened to us after the pandemic are like, now we have to pay for our lunches,” said Makieya Madison, another 4th-grader from Lakeview. “And I think that we shouldn’t have to pay for our lunches.”
Having the opportunity to testify for the Senate Education Committee was a significant moment for these students, who got real-life experience on how state government operates. The opportunity came about because Seipp and Sen. Kunesh used to work together at Robbinsdale Middle School.
“Over the past few years, [Kunesh] has come into the classroom and talked to the kids about what it means to be a senator, what it means to be a representative, what is the Capitol, what is the Senate,” Seipp said.
One of those visits by Kunesh happened last month. When it came time for the committee hearing, she wanted to get some of the Lakeview students’ feedback on the record.
“It directly connects to what we’re teaching in the classroom,” said Seipp. “And [the students are] sharing their voice. They’re having a space that’s sharing their voice not only with me, but with the whole state of Minnesota because they’re really saying that ‘we have needs.’
Needs such as additional classroom support and more bus drivers, among a slew of other things.
It’s something the lawmakers on the committee have the power to address, as they help determine how money is allocated to schools.
“Hearing from the children, I think they did a fantastic job articulating what needs we have,” Seipp said.